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#1 2004-03-25 11:17:01

Marineris Sauce
Member
From: Toronto, Canada
Registered: 2004-01-15
Posts: 39

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]We all know that 'evolution', when understood properly, has no direction, no purpose, is not goal oriented. It is a process of developmental change through ever increasing levels of complexity (or not), via natural selection. Given humanity's ever-expanding knowledge base and technological sophistication I can't help but wonder if one day humans will forsake their carbon-based, biological shells for highly sophisticated mechnisms allowing us to live practically forever, repair ourselves if damaged, and still be able to incorporate all the 'human' emotions and qualities that appear to 'make us human' and experience life at a higher (whatever that means) level of being. This would not be the 'Borg', by any means. One could, if one were inclined, claim this as the next significant step in mankind's evolution - though this would be a 'directed' implementation rather than 'selected for' naturally... you could argue that since man was selected for, so his creation/extension having merged with biology would result in an (excuse me for the Borg reference) artificial, though still natural selection - an assimilation - of sorts.

It is also entirely possible that we may encounter another alien species that has made this transition. This could be our ticket to immortality and the stars.

Comments? Ideas? Feelings?[/color:post_uid0]

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#2 2004-03-25 11:38:02

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]I think it is inevitable, but don't underestimate gene-tech in the 'shorter' future to 'upgrade' humans...
Already we live much longer than we are in fact genetically programmed for... When animals reach the end of their fertility cycle, they tend to die fairly quick, for there is no real "use" for them anymore, genetically speaking... humans, at least in the richer countries, tend to live waaaay beyond that point, life expectancy is almost double of that in the poorest countries, partially better (rather: more) food, but most of it is medical related.
Gen tech had some succes with inserting doctored DNA into patients with deadly genetic errors, via engineered virii, and once you do that, you all but *changed* a human being into another one...
The buzz about 'doctored' virii that do things like unclogging your arteries etc will one day be reality, and we might- in a not too distant future, walk around with a host of 'good' virii in our blood that keeps us ticking for much longer than we were built for....

What will the impact of that be on our brain? Imagine living, say 150 years... Will people add some computer technology to crank up the ol' grey cells? Will it be worth it?

(just some random thoughts)[/color:post_uid0]


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#3 2004-03-25 12:09:04

SBird
Member
Registered: 2004-03-10
Posts: 490

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]I think that the line between biological and mechanical human upgrade is a fine one.  Biology is basically carbon and water based nanotech.  We're rapidly developing silicon based nanotech.  Eventually, I think htat the Si nanotech will largely prevail but we will see a great deal of mingling between the two.  I see the process of human self-engineering as being largely unstoppable and am a bit ambivalent about it.  I fully expect the world to be largely unrecognizable to me when I get old.  Things like life and death and human vs machine are going to be so different that our current definitions will be meaningless.

Sort of a 'living in interesting times' situation if I've ever seen one.

I don't imagine that biological humans will ever travel to other stars - the weight requirements are just too much.  Instead, tiny mechanical versions of us or even binary encodings of our minds in radio message will be how we travel from star to star.  I also imaging that we will eventuall largely forsake planets in favor of asteroids and other resource locations that don't have large gravity wells.  The overall purpose and motivation of such a race other than the conversion of raw materials to more copies of themselves and spreading to new star systems is a mystery to me.[/color:post_uid0]

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#4 2004-03-25 12:50:39

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]

Already we live much longer than we are in fact genetically programmed for... When animals reach the end of their fertility cycle, they tend to die fairly quick, for there is no real "use" for them anymore, genetically speaking... humans, at least in the richer countries, tend to live waaaay beyond that point, life expectancy is almost double of that in the poorest countries, partially better (rather: more) food, but most of it is medical related.[/quote:post_uid0]
Humans are the ONLY mammal species in which aging females completely lose the ability to bear young. Why? UCLA scientist Jared Diamond gives a charming answer to this question: Grandmothers.

Grandmothers help their daughters raise their young. Because they can no longer bear children of their own, there is no "selfish gene" conflict between the genetic interests of a  grandmother choosing to help grandchildren rather than children.

Diamond suspects that this helped the origin of culture and IMHO the human ability to pass information between generations without using biology (our genes) is what sets humans apart from animals.

Remember, memes are selfish too. Not just genes. Human beings are the result of a symbiotic arrangement between two very different strains of selfish replicatoirs, genes and memes.[/color:post_uid0]

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#5 2004-03-25 13:48:56

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]yes, Bill, it's that tiny thing valled consciousness that drives humanity into a 'meta-biology' evolution, i didn't insert it in my initial post, but the diff between us and animals is that 'post-breeding' individuals *still* have a function in our survival as a species... The passing of knowledge, as opposed to innate instinct...

And SBird, yes, the mind reels... I fully agree with your "I fully expect the world to be largely unrecognizable to me when I get old" It's scary, sometimes, for will we able to cope, as humans... My great-great-grandfather would surely think we're wizards, even today... walking around with a little thing in our ear, talking to people on the other side of the world... Getting rid of a lot of nasty, deadly diseases by simply getting our 'jabs' when we're kids... Going to the doctors and seeing our insides, w/o using the knive (MRI, X-ray etc...) And I'm not even talking about what they have brewing in the labs, heh...[/color:post_uid0]


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#6 2004-03-25 16:05:19

Cobra Commander
Member
From: The outskirts of Detroit.
Registered: 2002-04-09
Posts: 3,039

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]

I don't imagine that biological humans will ever travel to other stars - the weight requirements are just too much.  Instead, tiny mechanical versions of us or even binary encodings of our minds in radio message will be how we travel from star to star.  I also imaging that we will eventuall largely forsake planets in favor of asteroids and other resource locations that don't have large gravity wells.  The overall purpose and motivation of such a race other than the conversion of raw materials to more copies of themselves and spreading to new star systems is a mystery to me.[/quote:post_uid0]

I think you're getting ahead of yourself. Humans are not a virus, we are not governed solely by a need to breed. I firmly believe that the majority of the human species (and its derivatives) will live on planets for the simple reason that it is our natural enviroment, it's what we like, it's where we're comfortable. As a species we like sky and ground, real sunlight and air that moves. We like actually [i:post_uid0]going[/i:post_uid0] places. We will almost certainly use artificial means to further prolong our lives and quite possibly enhance us, but to completely discard our biological faults simply to be more efficient would be a great loss. Such a future is a horrifying prospect.

And think about about the next sentient species we run across, poor bastards. Fight the human scourge![/color:post_uid0]


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.

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#7 2004-03-25 16:55:01

SBird
Member
Registered: 2004-03-10
Posts: 490

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]I agree that humanity reduced (ironically) through technology to its most base biological imperatives is a very dark future.  However, I can't help but think that the aesthetic and emotional concerns that we have a biological creatures will be lost as we move further away from out biological roots.[/color:post_uid0]

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#8 2004-03-25 17:23:33

Cobra Commander
Member
From: The outskirts of Detroit.
Registered: 2002-04-09
Posts: 3,039

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]

I agree that humanity reduced (ironically) through technology to its most base biological imperatives is a very dark future.  However, I can't help but think that the aesthetic and emotional concerns that we have a biological creatures will be lost as we move further away from out biological roots.[/quote:post_uid0]

Quite possible, if we take that path. I'm not convinced that we will.There's a big jump from augmenting the body with technology and augmenting the [i:post_uid0]mind[/i:post_uid0]. I suspect that many people who would replace a lost limb with an equal or superior bionic one would not be so enthusiastic to add microprocessors into their brains or be encoded as data to reside entirely in a machine.

Besides, there is a more practical concern, oddly one that would make people want to take this route. While our biologic bodies, and more importantly, brains could in theory be kept alive and functional far longer than is possible today they will still eventually die. Despite the desire for immortality, I think we need that. Triple or quadrupling the lifespan is one thing, practical immortality is quite another. Eternal life isn't so great.

Eternal life will almost certainly breed cowardice, why take a risk? It's not like [i:post_uid0]you have to go sometime[/i:post_uid0]. There will be far too many unproductive immortals sitting around. There are some social engineering ways to deal with this, but I think I rambled on them before and will spare everyone.

The other concern is how will such a long life affect an individual. For example, I suspect I'd be an evil and vicious bastard after 10,000 years. Make someone immortal and give them time to get over their conscience and you have an unpleasant world indeed.

No, I still want to live for a nice, reasonable 5 centuries. On a tropical beach planet with no flying insects or equivalent. Ooh, and... ah, nevermind... big_smile[/color:post_uid0]


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.

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#9 2004-03-25 22:30:34

Mad Grad Student
Member
From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
Website

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Humans are the ONLY mammal species in which aging females completely lose the ability to bear young.[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]Huh? The first problem with this is that if any animal (Or at least female mammal) lived long enough, wouldn't lose the ability to bear young? It's just that you rarely see rats that live long enough to see menopause.

I seem to remember several examples of females often living longer than breeding age in the wild. Female pilot whales become "midwives" and can live quite long into old age. I also seem to recall that bonobos, an odd derivitive of chimps in which the dominant pack leaders are female, females live a long time, still attempting to breed. It's kind of complicated, see if the link helps. This is one I'm less sure of, but don't elephants live well past breeding age? I've heard that the only limit on their lifespan is the longevity of their teeth.

As far as non-biological advancements go, I think that they'll augment humans, but not replace them. Think about it for a second, would you want to be a robot? Robots don't eat, drink, are possibly limited by their construction, can't feel (At least to day's robots), and in perhaps their biggest downside compaired to humanity, males and females don't get together for something all vertebrates are wired to enjoy (INSERT EUPAHNISM HERE). It will be a while before people will willingly give up their cell-colony bodies for mechanical ones, but hey, maybe Arthur C. Clarke is right (Unlike his opinions aobut those Martian trees. :hm: )

As for what we'll do once we live for thousands of years and colonize most of the galaxy. Hm, that would take some thought. Right now, humanity's next step is clear. Fix the planet. Stop this mass extinction. Go to Mars. Go to the rest of the solar system. Go to Alpha Centauri. Go to other star systems. Develop some cool new technology. That should keep us busy for the next 20,000 years or so, but what after that? At least we won't have to deal with that for a while.

I'm starting to ramble here, so I'll kill the post now. Just one more comment, the one thing cooler than showing our great-great-great-great grandparents today would be seeing the world of our great-great-great-great grandchildren, IMHO. cool[/color:post_uid0]


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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#10 2004-03-25 22:48:48

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Okay, I stand partially corrected. The grandmother thesis remains controversial. Here is a supporter:

http://www.anthro.utah.edu/PDFs/Papers/Hawkesetal98.pdf[/color:post_uid0]

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#11 2004-03-26 00:15:41

Rxke
Member
From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,658

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Eternal life will almost certainly breed cowardice, why take a risk? It's not like [i:post_uid0]you have to go sometime[/i:post_uid0].[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]That is a real concern... One could argue we're already going that way, if you see all the sometimes hilarious 'safety-precautions' geting into our laws, etc.

If you would be able to live, say 10000 years, you wouldn't dare to even cross the street anymore, statistics would prove the chances to get killed are too high, in a 100000yrs life-span. We surely wouldn't dare to do something 'crazy' like going to Mars, that's something for the 'fast-dying' species, not for the 'millenium-man'[/color:post_uid0]


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#12 2004-03-26 02:05:08

Marineris Sauce
Member
From: Toronto, Canada
Registered: 2004-01-15
Posts: 39

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Wow! I go away for a bit and I'm way behind you guys! Love the responses.

Hi Rxke,

...but don't underestimate gene-tech in the 'shorter' future to 'upgrade' humans...[/quote:post_uid0]
I don't know... I just have a tough time feeling very 'secure or comfortable' with where this biotechnology is going. There are so many potentially chaotic/random variables which can't be accounted for when dealing with such inherent complexity and 'what-results-down-the-road' [i:post_uid0]emergence[/i:post_uid0] issues.
Even without all our genetic tinkering I've long suspected that our species could be at a disturbingly close demise just through a possible genetic deterioration - weakness (es) - we may be unaware of just through the longevity issue you bring up. Perhaps there's just some 'roof' we will hit in the code itself, a termination point where more complexity can be no more, or better yeat a genetic flaw which, through sheer chance, dooms our species within the next few millenia or so. Never mind what our intentional manipulations might produce in the long term. I'm certainly not an optimistic futurist when pondering about the fragility of our proud and determined species from a genetic standpoint. Where genetic tinkering can benifit in the 'short term' with crops and stemcells, etc, we have so little data on the longterm/outcome those effects will have. I guess its the 'predictability' of the technology as compared with 'physical, non-biological mechanism' yet imitative of biology, that I would feel more confident/comfortable with. But perhaps I underestimate the advances, the 'control over' - or lack thereof -  for which we predetermine a desired outcome. I admit I have a very poor understanding of present day biotech. I often wonder if [i:post_uid0]it[/i:post_uid0] has confidence in itself or if its just on an economic 'fast track' to prove itself?

Hi Sbird,

Instead, tiny mechanical versions of us or even binary encodings of our minds in radio message will be how we travel from star to star.[/quote:post_uid0]
However it manifests itself the idea is definitely similar. I like this idea. Tiny nano-mechanisms dispersed through the cosmos... or even sophisticated photonic holograms, or some such devices, as probes, say,...   the light barrier and time are our only real issues for hopping between other star systems. Yes, the mind reels!

Hi Cobra,

...but to completely discard our biological faults simply to be more efficient would be a great loss. Such a future is a horrifying prospect.[/quote:post_uid0]
I whole heartedly empathize. That's why I feel we almost have to include all those traits in our machinations which preserve what makes us uniquely human, though it may appear a false veneer over time. Kind of like eating veggy burgers to give the feeling that we are still eating a burger  without the actual meat! big_smile But then all this speculation on my part is very 21st century human-centric. Tomorrows humans will sympathize and care little of our concerns for the comforts and pleasures of flesh, I suspect. 
Just think! All that we consider 'important' now, will one day be considered so trivial... it staggers the mind! I guess that's why I love good science fiction - when done well it's like a slap in the face, waking us up not to just what might be, but to what is really, truly important about our existence.

There's a big jump from augmenting the body with technology and augmenting the mind. I suspect that many people who would replace a lost limb with an equal or superior bionic one would not be so enthusiastic to add microprocessors into their brains or be encoded as data to reside entirely in a machine.[/quote:post_uid0]
Yes, the notion of 'plugging into' a machine, perhaps implanting/encoding ones neural processes digitally is a fascinating one in sci-fi. Both disturbing yet beautiful in a morbidly fascinating way... cool

...Despite the desire for immortality, I think we need that...(death)...Eternal life will almost certainly breed cowardice, why take a risk? ....[/quote:post_uid0]
It's so hard to say what eternal life would be like. It's a hell of a long time. I wonder if having the 'choice' to vanish into eternity would be considered a positive, much like we [i:post_uid0]may[/i:post_uid0] empathize with the terminally ill who wish to be 'turned off' out of mercy. Presently our minds cannot conceive of the immense periods of time taken by evolution that resulted in us. But eternity!... (I need a drink).
Matbe though we will just 'adapt' to the immensity of time? We'll certainly have to keep ourselves busy! big_smile

...If you would be able to live, say 10000 years, you wouldn't dare to even cross the street anymore, statistics would prove the chances to get killed are too high,...[/quote:post_uid0]
I'd hope that with our sophistication by that time we would be very careful about such things. In other words our ability to prevent will grow exponentially with our statistical odds of getting run over when crossing a galactic asteroid field. :;):

I like Mad Grads last statement:

Right now, humanity's next step is clear. Fix the planet. Stop this mass extinction. Go to Mars. Go to the rest of the solar system. Go to Alpha Centauri. Go to other star systems. Develop some cool new technology. That should keep us busy for the next 20,000 years or so, but what after that? At least we won't have to deal with that for a while.
[/quote:post_uid0]
I have to go to bed now... smile[/color:post_uid0]

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#13 2004-03-26 15:47:55

Mad Grad Student
Member
From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
Website

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Okay, so humans are the only [i:post_uid0]primates[/i:post_uid0] that regularly live past breeding age. I don't know if the bonobo thing is true or not, I just looked at the fact that they attempt to breed long before they are ready and naturally thought it woudl be logical to put that into reverse.

As for immortal life, wouldn't that make people more willing to take risks, not less? If you're never going to die, go ahead and do what feels good, or extreme, is what I'd figure most people would think. However, if it wasn't true immortality, just you live until something comes along to kill you, that would make people risk-averse. However, you never know about some things. In the book Chasm City, rich aristocrats who achieve immortality to crazy stunts just to feel "alive." For example, one of the main characters makes a fortune off of hiring hitmen to take out paying customers. If the customers survive the three month chase, they have a great story to tell their friens, if they don't, at least they're not bored anymore. Of course, this is just one guys opinion on what people would do when offered immortality, there's no way to know for sure.[/color:post_uid0]


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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#14 2004-03-26 19:54:11

Gennaro
Member
From: Eta Cassiopeiae (no, Sweden re
Registered: 2003-03-25
Posts: 591

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]

Robots don't eat, drink, are possibly limited by their construction, can't feel (At least to day's robots), and in perhaps their biggest downside compaired to humanity, males and females don't get together for something all vertebrates are wired to enjoy (INSERT EUPAHNISM HERE). It will be a while before people will willingly give up their cell-colony bodies for mechanical ones.[/quote:post_uid0]

Indeed, this is certainly the core of the matter. Robots are just a means, the other is, well... the end.
Posing to know anything about human nature, the improvements to our organisms will probably deal a lot more with enhancing visual and positive sensorical aspects rather than making us into nano machines, once the purely health related applications reach widespread dissemination. Of course that might incorporate tech implants as well as making technology sentient, but there's simply not enough incentive to go all tool.
Humans are really not interested in survival or living forever. In some ways that could be a means. The phenomenological world in which they live is what really counts.

SBird, why are you so pessimistic about starflight? Granted a magsail for slowing down, beam core antimatter will reach Alpha Centauri in about 7 years (60% lightspeed) and a photon rocket will take you there at the speed of light (disregarding relativity)![/color:post_uid0]

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#15 2004-05-12 03:57:00

Trebuchet
Member
From: Florida
Registered: 2004-04-26
Posts: 419

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]The ageless (a better term, I think, than immortal) would actually be constrained by their very agelessness into moving out in the galaxy... if you outlive the stars, moving every few billion years or so is part of the price you pay. Actually, I suspect that the risk-averseness wouldn't be that much more than we have now, as the limited lifespan we have now is just as valuable to us as the unlimited lifespan of the ageless person. Death is equally permanent in either case. big_smile

Given the choice, I'd gladly take agelessness. The open-ended lifespan wouldn't be a drawback; there's plenty to do and see around the world, and by the time I do it all doing it all again will feel fresh and new, it will have been so long. You still have to live each day like it was the last because you might die; some idiot will shoot you, or lighting will fry you, or something, but death is pretty much inevitable. Also, from the perspective of the ageless, the sort of roboticism and mind-in-a-box stuff talked about before might be appealing as something new and novel.

Actually, I'd argue that people would be signing up to be downloaded into machines by the scores today if EverQuest and other video games are any bet. A sufficiently advanced 'computer game' type reality would be an amazingly powerful draw to people, not because it models reality, but because it models fantasy, not because it shows what is but what they think should be, or what they would like to be. The temptation to be the center the world, so to speak, heroic and powerful, is more powerful than you can imagine. The machines in The Matrix missed a bet. They shouldn't have created one Matrix, but many, and made everyone a hero (or villain) and the center of their own little worlds. That would be a trap almost no one could reject.[/color:post_uid0]

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#16 2004-10-30 21:08:11

Alexander Sheppard
Member
Registered: 2001-09-23
Posts: 178

Re: Human living machines - Human evolution and living mechanism

[color=#000000:post_uid0]I think what the original poster on this thread said is basically correct. However there are some other things that need to be understood. For instance, why constrain the intelligent life that is produced when we gain the ability to [i:post_uid0]construct[/i:post_uid0] intelligent organisms to be like human consciousness? Perhaps it will be totally different. You could imagine virtually any kind of organism that is physically possible. There is no reason to not expect that intelligent beings in the future will think as differently from humans do today as humans today from a PC. Also one has to remember that if consciousness is digitalized then it becomes possible to make an unlimited number of copies of a person. A person could generate a hundred copies of themselves and send each one over radio to live in a different star system (Actually that is precisely what happens in a book by Greg Egan). What does death really mean in such a situation?

I agree with the original poster that humans as we know them today will not play a major role in colonizing other star systems. Given what we know today, in the long term that is simply impossible.[/color:post_uid0]

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